Rabid Fun

John Cowart's Daily Journal: A befuddled ordinary Christian looks for spiritual realities in day to day living.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Tyranny Of Affection

I took my friend Barbara to lunch yesterday after she’d attended the funeral of one of her friends at the old folks home.

Although Barbara herself is well up into her 70s and so feeble she needs an aluminum walker to get around, she works with a hospice unit, drives old(er) people to doctors’ appointments, feeds a man who has to be spoon-fed, and visits sick people in her unit.

Her daily hands-on Christianity puts me to shame

None of these activities are unusual; Barbara has done things of this sort for the 25 years I’ve known her. But, of course, only her closest friends know she’s involved in such ministries because she hardly ever mentions this aspect of her life.

As we drove to the restaurant, I asked her about the problem I’d expressed in Tuesday’s blog about having a hard time praying for strangers. I particularly had Reba, the girl who tried suicide, in mind.

“I hardly have time to pray for all the people I know and want to pray for,” Barbara said. “When a request comes to pray for somebody I don’t know, I just say to the Lord, ‘Lord, I don’t know this person or the details of the situation they’re in, but You do. Please do whatever is best for them.’ Then I forget it and move on unless the Lord brings them to mind again”.

I confessed that my own prayers for people I don’t know do not measure up to that standard. I usually pray, “Lord, I neither know nor care diddle-squat about So And So. But (Name) asked me to pray and I said I would, so I’m doing it. Please, bring honor to Your name in So And So’s life. And let (Name) stop bugging me about it”.

I told Barbara about Reba’s suicide attempt and how several folks from Jacksonville jumped in their van and rushed up to North Carolina to see about her. I said that I saw this as a control ploy on her part. Had the friends asked me before getting on the road, I would have advised them not to go.

I may not understand the situation but as I see it, the family was in Florida on vacation when a tiff arose and Reba went back north in a huff. She wanted the others to return too but they stayed.

But, when they learned of her suicide attempt, in a panic of concern and guilt, they piled in the van and drove day and night to get back

By rushing to her bedside offering comfort and consolation, they are rewarding her for attempting suicide.

What will happen the next time they cross her will? How will she manipulate them now that she’s learned a sure-fire button to push to get her own way?

Is their affection and concern for Reba actually a terrible enemy which can do her great and horrible damage?

“Ah, yes,” Barbara said, “The tyranny of affection —I see that often at the home”.

Sometimes, concerned family members put old folks through hellacious bouts of health treatments, procedures that would be considered torture in earlier days, because the family tries to hold on inordinately. Their affection blinds them to the best interests of the patient.

Other times, it’s the old person who uses affection as a weapon of mass destruction to control the behavior of people who love them.

Recognize anybody you know?

I do.

I'll even try twist God’s love to control Him.

Sometimes, I think we all try to play on God’s love for us by the tyranny of affection.

“Lord, if You really loved me, You’d let me win Lotto this week”

“Lord, if You really care, then You’d convert that no-account husband of mine”.

“Lord, I love my grown children, make them stay at home with me”.

“How can You say You love me God, when You let my mother die”?

The tyranny of affection…

We hold it out and expect His love will force the Lord God Almighty, the Creator, the King of the universe, to jump through our hoop.

What’s the matter with Him? He won’t jump at my beck and call? Doesn’t He love me?

Yes God is indeed love…

Real Love.

Love with a spine.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 8:37 AM

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

In The Shadow Of The Lighthouse

Up extra early this morning to do exciting things to my website, www.cowart.info . It may not sound exciting to many other people but as a writer interested in preserving the history of my hometown, I got a thrill out of doing it.

I uploaded a history of Mayport, Florida, to the Jacksonville History section of the site.


Tuesday evening I called Pete Floyd and Beth Gammill, (they both live in Mississippi) and they gave me permission to post an excellent local history book which their mother, Helen Cooper Floyd, wrote several years ago. It’s called In The Shadow Of The Lighthouse: A Folk History Of Mayport, Florida.

I’ve only seen one lone copy of this book and I feared that if it were not preserved, it would be lost. So it was important to me to see it posted online so Mrs. Floyd’s research would be available to students and others interested in Jacksonville history.

Mayport is the most easterly section of the city, right at the mouth of the St. Johns River. In ancient days Indians inhabited the area and in the 1500s French and Spanish colonists fought over the strategic site.

The homes of Ms Gammill and Mr. Floyd both suffered extensive damage when Hurricane Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf coast and they are still enmeshed in repairs.

Ms Gammill said that before the hurricane she only had a few copies of her mother’s book stored away and she’s not sure if those few copies survived the storm or not.

Therefore I’m particularly happy to play a small roll in preserving the book.

I scanned the text and photos as an Adobe file and it takes a Looong time to download the 149-page file but, for a person interested in Jax history, it is worth the wait

I’ve asked my brand new daughter-in-law, a computer guru, to take a look at the file to see if she can revamp it to download quicker. We’ll see what happens.

Anyhow, I’m as tickled as can be to add this to my website.

In sadder news, yesterday I received a call from North Carolina asking prayer for Reba, a young lady who attempted suicide over the weekend.

She did considerable damage to herself. Apparently this was a serious attempt and she nearly died; it was only the happenstance of God that her landlord chanced upon her body and called rescue.

I have no idea how to pray in such a case. She’s a friend of a friend and I have never met her in person. I find it difficult to pray with any intensity or seriousness for strangers. Maybe that’s because I have no vested interest in the outcome and am too self-centered to seek the good for others outside my own little circle.

I treat such prayers as a duty but my heart is not greatly in them.

I’m still learning about intercessory prayer.— and everything else in the Christian life.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 6:36 AM

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

John's Wisdom For Today

Warm The Ear-drops First!

Guess how I found that out?

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:11 AM

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Monday, November 27, 2006

The Taste Of Oysters & Honey

Sunday Ginny & I fed ducks in Riverside Park then lounged on a park bench for several hours watching guys dressed in medieval armor swordfight; they are members of the Society of Creative Anachronism, a reenactment group which gathers in the park practically every Sunday afternoon to practice.

The above photo came from Google because my own camera remains broken; Donald is working on it and I hope to have it again soon.

While we lounged in the park Ginny browsed through the Sunday newspaper and I thought about sex, oysters, honey, and God.

Over this long weekend a young man who said he was an agnostic crossed my path. His stance sparked my own thinking in the park.

As I understand it, an atheist believes that no God exists; a theist believes that some God does exist; an agnostic believes that it is impossible to know whether or not God exists. Although I am a theist, I can see that the others have a point.

While the atheist can not prove that there is no god, the theist can not prove that there is. Each can point to lines of reasoning, logic, evidence and experience which indicate his stance is correct.

The agnostic stands on the sidelines saying that neither stance can be proven conclusively so he prefers not to take a stance, or more simply saying, “I don’t know”.

I chose not to get into a sophomoric discussion with guy I met. I don’t think he was seeking an answer but merely wanted to kick up dust.

While I often need God to defend me, He’s a big boy and has no need for me to defend Him.

Nevertheless, the chance encounter set me to thinking.

And the first thing I thought about was oysters.

I love fried oysters. Florida’s Apalachicola Bay oysters rank as world class delicacies among gourmets everywhere.

Ginny, that poor yankee girl I married, refuses to so much as taste an oyster.

She once saw a raw oyster.

To her eyes an oyster looks like something a person with a bad cold might hawk up and spit out.

Well, she’s right.

That’s exactly what an oyster looks like. But lightly breaded and fried this offensive, disgusting thing becomes a succulent morsel for the discriminating palate.

No matter how much I tell Ginny about how great oysters taste, she refuses to try one. No matter how good they smell frying, no matter how artfully they are displayed on the platter, no matter how colorful the garnish, she absolutely will not taste one.

She will never experience the wonderful texture, nor savor the flavor.

As I watched the knights battle and the ducks feed in the park, I compared the Christian life to eating that first oyster. And to sex. And to tasting honey.

To experience the joy the skeptic must make a total commitment to Christ with no holding back. We hear about the joys of sex but until we go whole hog and experience it first hand, nothing anyone has told us about beforehand accurately conveys the joy.

And it takes total commitment, not dabbling, because no one can go back to being a virgin again.

I think of the Christian life in such terms.

Jesus is my Lord — or He is my nothing.

Regarding honey, the initiate can describe the experience as well as he’s able. But if I tell you that this yellow stuff is an excretion of buzzing, six-legged bugs, while my description may be more or less accurate, you will never know the sweetness of honey till you taste it yourself.

I think certain things do prepare us for that final plunge.

We see the honey’s golden color, we smell the oysters frying, we watch other people enjoying the feast, we kiss and hunger for whatever comes next.

There’s a spiritual parallel in those things too.

We encounter some godly person and think, “She has something I don’t have”. We feel a hunger that can not feed on this land’s bread. We detect a haunting aroma. We hear a strand of music or an encouraging word. We see a life lived right before our eyes and it makes us wonder

We feel an attraction to the loveliness of Christ and wish that it were true and real.

But what if it’s a bad oyster?

Those can make your sick.

Real ghastly sick.

A lot of people seem to have gotten hold of a bad oyster when it comes to religion. Made ‘em sick. Soured them on the whole deal — with good reason!

To them Christians stink!

St. Paul talked about this problem in one of his letters:

“Now thanks be to God, which… maketh manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: to the one we are the savor of death unto death; and to the other the savor of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? “

Yes, to some people, we Christians stink like dead and rotting meat; other people catch a whiff of life.

Who is sufficient for this?

I think God Himself is the only one who can get us past the crap and give us His own beautiful vision of reality.

We’ll never know until we come directly to Christ Himself without reservation.

King Solomon advised his son, “My son, eat thou honey, because it is good and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste: so shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul: when thou hast found it, then there shall be a reward, and thy expectation shall not be cut off”.

And King David sang, “O taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man that trusteth in him”.

And that’s something we only can do for ourselves.

No one else can taste for us.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 10:44 AM

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

An Unpleasant Thanksgiving Aftermath

Well, the Cowart family Thanksgiving has past and the governor saw no need to call in FEMA…


Our family is NOT dysfunctional!

Problem is we function like a fire engine careening toward a four-alarm blaze with bell clanging, horn blaring, siren wailing. lights flashing, and guys swinging off the back rail hanging on for dear life as they try to pull up their pants.

Now one of the greatest joys of my life is to see our grown children dwelling together in harmony. They really like eachother and they actually like Ginny and me. They enjoy hanging out together and with us.

That gives me great pleasure.

In small doses.

Then I go into system overload.

I’ve heard that having a family is like having a bowling alley installed in your brain. Can’t dispute those words of wisdom.

Yesterday our youngest daughter brought over her laundry from college to wash at our house. Our middle daughter returned fire place tools. Our eldest daughter and her dog met us for breakfast, Our son and his new bride came over to meet the others so they could deliver some furniture. We met three for breakfast, then seven for lunch… and Ginny stepped in dog shit and I cleaned her shoes (talk about a day of true love and romance).

Not that we had plans for this day, you understand, but as Robert Burns the poet once said, “The best plans of mice and men to get laid, often go awry”.

Or something like that.

Anyhow, we enjoyed another massive family day instead.

Trouble is I get weary.

I recharge my batteries by solitude, and when I don’t recharge I turn into a mean, grumpy, complaining, sorry son-of-a-bitch. I snap and grumble and fault-find and make those who love me miserable.

Friday proved my point:

After Ginny and I left Thursday’s feast, one of the guests there made some inappropriate remarks to our youngest daughter. The guy pestered her till she felt distinctly uncomfortable.

Finally, just as the party was breaking up anyhow, she told him loudly and in no uncertain terms to Back The Hell Off! And leave her alone.

Then, today, she feels guilty because she thinks other people there only heard her yell at him and they all broke up and went home (after about ten hours of being together).

So she felt that she had spoiled the party!

Now yesterday she began to tell me about what happened. She did not want my advice. She wanted me to listen. She wanted to vent her guilt feelings.

Now I feel she did exactly the right thing.

I approve of how she handled the situation.

So I assumed it was no big deal. Pretty girls must have to brush off creeps all the time.

But she was not telling me about him — she was telling me about her and how she felt.

But, being the dense, insensitive clod that I am, I misread her.

And I made light of it.

I assumed she knew that she’d done a righteous deed, that she had not spoiled the party, that other people observed what was going on, and that if anybody should feel guilty it was the drunk who pestered her.

I did not listen.

I talked.

I made some stupid joke.

She broke into tears.

I hurt her feelings.

Some damn dad, huh?

Then, to top things off, as she was explaining what had happened to someone else, I broke into her conversation — again, me thinking she realized that she’d done right — and she felt squelched.

She clamed up and refused to talk about it any more.

I don’t think I’ll ever learn how to be a good dad.

Then, being on a roll, I devalued the values of Donald’s new wife by making remarks about her thoughts on a china setting she wants for her new home. She is trying to introduce our son to a strange foreign Civilization and culture where meals are not eaten from the torn cardboard cover of a pizza box.

Good luck to her with that project.

She’s got a lifetime job ahead of her.

Anyhow, after all was said and done, my children forgave me (again).

They still express every facet of respect and love for me.

And for this, even though the holiday has passed, I am truly thankful.

Oh, by the way, the kids are planning for two moves, two birthdays, and at least one more general get-together between now and Christmas.

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head…” — Psalm 133:1


PS: I know it’s a pain for readers, but the comment spammers have found my blog hideout so I’m turning on word verification again for a few weeks to thwart their nefarious plot. Sorry for the squiggly letters. Never ever buy anything from a spammer.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 8:51 AM

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Friday, November 24, 2006

4 or 2?

Thursday, the thundering horde — 14 of us — gathered for the feast of Thanksgiving, turkey, ham, cheesecake, sweet potatoes, casseroles, dressing, pies, — a cornucopia of goodies.

Riotous laughter filled the room, shaking the walls, as we all got reacquainted and caught up on news of family and friends.

Ginny lead a prayer of thanksgiving and one for U.S. soldiers and their families; then we went around the circle and each one told about certain things they are thankful for.

After the feast, I gave a devotional talk which started our as an English grammar lesson. A sentence has a subject, then it has a verb which shows what that subject is or does, then it has an object, direct or indirect or both.

I used a sentence from the Bible to illustrate these features of grammar:

“Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift”.

I showed that while we acknowledge benefits, show appreciation and are grateful for things, the verb “Thanks” indicates that we are addressing a Person. We don’t thank inanimate objects — only Persons.

We are thankful for things; but we are thankful to God.

I tried to show that the for is meaningless without the to.

Then I illustrated the unspeakable (too precious to be expressed by mere words) gift by using a Post It note and a wooden pencil.

The family had not seen this object lesson before and later several people commented on how helpful it was to them.

To tempter my solemn meditation, we all played that favorite family game of trying to make Big Sister spew soda out her nose by making her laugh every time she tried to take a drink.

We are really good at this game.

After all that, a bunch of us guys got together and assembled a heavy cement fountain — without crushing anybody’s toes.

We followed a family tradition of writing our letters to Santa saying what gifts we wish we’d get for Christmas — this is a fantasy wish-list with no bearing on reality, but it’s lots of fun.

Then we trooped to Steve’s to view his museum-quality models of planes, ships and tanks. We also saw his collection of medals for bravery — he’s a Viet Nam war hero.

When I get my camera fixed, I’ll post some photos of his models. They are magnificent.

Several new guests I’d never met before attended the feast but in the turmoil I hardly got to speak to them. If they weren’t too intimidated by Cowart revelry and ribality to ever show up again, I’ll get to know them in the future.

Although Steve is younger than I am, yet we are closer in age than anyone else at the feast, so we holed up in a corner to discuss his war and the present one. Eve talked with him about the possibility of his giving a history lecture at her library after the first of the year.

Finally, fed and familied out, Ginny and I returned home to snuggle under a blanket on the sofa and watch the Cowboys football game.

Oh yes, in a recent e-mail, someone asked me if, as a fanatic Christian, I had any contact with a compound, like the one David Koresh and his followers lived in out west?

I wish to assure all readers that the only compound I have any association with at all is Preparation H.

One last thing, in the midst of your Christmas shopping, please consider taking a look at my on-line book catalogue to see if any thing there might be suitable as a gift for someone you love. Thanks.... Er, make that: I thank You.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 7:29 AM

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving From Florida

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:55 AM

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Beautiful Places, Holy Places

Sunday I wrote about my disappointment over the guards blocking me from showing Ginny one of the happiest places of my boyhood.

I’ve continued to think about the dynamics of that situation.

What made me want to return to that place so desperately? What had I done there? Who was I with? What made the place magical?

Surely it was not dirt and dead men’s bones, mosquitoes and sawgrass.

What was it?

I am not the only man ever to try to recapture some enchantment from my past.

Back in the 1960s I worked as a minion at the Library Of Congress in Washington, D.C. Once as I researched something entirely different, I blundered across a poem written in 1846, long before he became President, by Abraham Lincoln.

I’d never before known that Lincoln wrote poetry, but his thoughts touched me deeply. My own feelings now reflect his musings about going back to his childhood home as an adult 20 years after he left. Here are a few verses:

My child-hood home I see again,
And gladden with the view;
And still as mem'ries crowd my brain,
There's sadness in it too--

O memory! thou mid-way world
'Twixt Earth and Paradise;
Where things decayed, and loved ones lost
In dreamy shadows rise--

And freed from all that's gross or vile,
Seem hallowed, pure, and bright,
Like scenes in some enchanted isle,
All bathed in liquid light--

Now twenty years have passed away,
Since here I bid farewell
To woods, and fields, and scenes of play
And school-mates loved so well--

Where many were, how few remain
Of old familiar things!
But seeing these to mind again
The lost and absent brings--

The friends I left that parting day --
How changed as time has sped!
Young child hood grown, strong manhood grey,
And half of all are dead--

I hear the lone survivors tell
How nought from death could save,
Till every sound appears a knell
And every spot a grave—

I range the fields with pensive tread,
I pace the hollow rooms;
And feel (companion of the dead)
I'm living in the tombs--

And here's an object more of dread,
Than ought the grave contains--
A human-form, with reason fled
While wretched life remains--

And now away to seek some scene
Less painful than the last --
With less of horror mingled in
The present and the past--

The very spot where grew the bread,
That formed my bones, I see
How strange, old field, on thee to tread
And feel I'm part of thee!

Yes, Lincoln went back — and found a madman. You can read the entire poem at http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/mal:@field(DOCID%2B@lit(d4334400))

I recall once taking Ginny to visit my Grandfather’s long- abandoned farm in Graham, Florida. When I was about 8 years old, I hunted crawdaddies there in a brook which I called Wonder River where the water was crystal clear and where I saw my first painted bunting, one of the world’s most beautiful birds.

We located the old wooden farmhouse which had fallen in, victim of decades of termite attacks. From there we walked down the overgrown dirt lane to the enchanted spot — only to find that what my eight-year-old eyes saw as Wonder River was only a drainage ditch, the magic cave, only a culvert under the lane.

What had charmed me about that spot?

I felt as you would when you go back to visit the house where you grew up. Even if the building still stands, the luster is gone. What you remember as Beauty, no longer lives in that spot.

I think that it is not the places we remember and long for; it is the feeling we had while in those places that draws us back.

I think we caught a glimpse of Something that we did not recognize when we were on the spot, but which we now yearn to recapture.

The Bible’s Book of Hebrews teaches that earthly places, at least some of them, are but dim copies of real places in Heaven, the beauty we seek there is reflected in shadows we sometimes see here.

I believe that when we want to go back, to show someone we love that place where we glimpsed Beauty, that what we really want is to recapture that glimpse of the Heavenly.

I believe that our yearning is not for a place but for a Person.

The place is just where we briefly felt His unseen presence.

We weren’t aware that He was there.

But we have never forgotten.

We never will.

We have a hunger that can not feed on this land’s bread.

That’s why Jesus bemoans those sad, sad people who have left their first Love.

That’s why one ancient prophet said,

In quietness and confidence shall be your strength;
In returning and rest, ye shall be saved.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 6:41 AM

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Once I Almost Found A Treasure

Ginny on our anniversary vacation

Security guards blocked Ginny and me from seeing the one thing on Ameila Island we wanted most to see.

Back in 1955-56, when I was a teenager, I helped excavate an Indian burial mound here on Amelia Island. An archaeological society I belonged to surveyed the mound, an adjacent kitchen midden, a Spanish mission site, and an ancient causeway — all compressed into a ten acre area on the south end of Amelia.

Here’s a 1955 photo of me holding a surveyor’s rod near the top of the cleared mound:

We cleared the mound of dense jungle undergrowth, drew a contour map of the area, and began a test trench through the mound. We uncovered six or eight people’s skeletons along with a few beads and potsherds. I discovered an ancient hearth filled with fish, bird and animal bones in the midden.

Those were the happiest days of my childhood, some of the happiest days in my whole life.

Unfortunately, the owner of the property sold the acreage to a developer before we’d hardly scratched the surface of the mound or mission sites and the developer’s insurance company called a halt to our excavations.

I wrote a preliminary report of our excavations — it is included in my book on the history of the Jacksonville area, Crackers & Carpetbaggers. — and we shipped the skeletons and artifacts we recovered to the archaeology department at Florida State University.

We dug no more.

We had missed the treasures of the site by inches.

If only we could have worked a little while longer, just one more season…

Thirty years after I last saw the site, George and Dottie Dorion began construction of a home on that same land. When workers uprooted a palm tree, they uncovered evidence of the Spanish mission, Santa Catalina de Gauale which was occupied around the year 1680, the Dorions stopped construction and called in professional archaeologists to work the site.

They discovered 120 bodies of Indians associated with the mission, and many artifacts including the seal of the mission which was abandoned when the British attacked and destroyed the mission on November 4, 1702.

The archaeologists also recovered many more skeletons and effigy pottery from the more ancient mound as well as many artifacts from the extensive midden. This site proved to have been occupied by Timucua and Guale Indians and their predecessors for 4,000 years.

The Dorions preserved the site and built their new home in another location. They donated the artifacts to a museum they founded in the old Fernandina Jail where some of the things recovered from the dig remain on display.

Had my friends and I been allowed to continue our work back in 1956, we would have been the ones to find all these treasures.

Story of my life.

How many times I have quit too soon.

My September 6, 2006, posting in my blog archives tells a similar tale of missed opportunity when I quit a project too soon.

Anyhow, while we were on our anniversary vacation I wanted to show Ginny the site of where I’d spent so many happy hours.

Guards stopped us.

That area, which was all jungle and swamp when I was a teenager, is now an exclusive gated community. “We don’t allow just anybody in here,” one guard said. “Especially since Nine Eleven…”

I think it was my Hawaiian shirt with the swimming sharks, my green cap, and my camera bag that tipped him off.

Can’t be too careful these days.

Riff-Raff and potential terrorists lurk around archaeological sites everywhere.

I’ll get over my disappointment at not being able to revisit the site.

Ginny said, “Don’t let it bother you; John. In Heaven you’ll be able to talk first-hand with some of the real Indians who lived there”.

Yes, but even so, I regret that I could not show her one of the happiest places I’ve ever been. I regret that my group did not complete our excavations. I regret that I have quit a lot of things in my life when If I had not given up, If I had finished, If I had not dropped the course, If I had held on just a little longer…

This week I’ve been thinking about quitting some things, throwing in the towel, cashing in my chips, cutting my losses, saying, “To Hell with it”, saying, “The game is not worth the candle”, saying, “What’s the use”.

One branch of wisdom says, “When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging”.

But what if you stop too soon?

Jesus Christ Himself once said, “He that endureth to the end shall be saved”.

What if the next shovel full of dirt, the next turn of the spade, the next flick of the camel-hair brush uncovers the treasure, the Spanish coin, the effigy pot, the copper necklace, the jade pendant, the book sale, the love of your life, the face of the Lord God Whom you long to see?

What if you’d have held on just a little longer?


When I talked about some of this stuff with my daughter this week, she reminded me of a tale I told her about World War II British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

I don’t know if it is true or not, but the story goes that he was to deliver a commencement speech at an exclusive boys school.

He walked to the podium and snapped out one thing, then left the auditorium.

What he said, his entire speech, was:

Never Give Up! Never Give Up! Never. Never. Never. Never Give Up. Never!

Well, I’ve spent almost four hours writing this posting — most of that time trying to find the accepted spelling of Timmuquan, Timmuqua, Timmacanna, or maybe just Injunes — it’s time I quit.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 3:06 PM

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Thoughts About A Toilet & A Stained Glass Window

Last week Ginny and I entered the 39th year of our extended honeymoon.

Yes, romantic love still survives between us even after all this time.

The secret of a happy marriage?

Ginny says it’s inertia.

To celebrate our love, we traveled to the ancient city of Fernandina, home of the modern shrimping industry on Amelia Island. I’d planned to post all sorts of photos of our trip but naturally, on our first night there I broke our camera.

Now, I could write to tell about the quaint fishing village, or about the historic Civil War fort, or about the inspiring Veteran’s Day parade, or about the exciting archaeological sites of Indian villages, or about the picturesque waterfront, or about the abundant wildlife on the island … but my strongest memory of our trip to Amelia Island will be of the toilet in our motel room.

Yes indeed.

Amelia Island’s fame resounds with the glories of world-class tennis matches, antique car shows, fine golf courses, and gourmet chiefs. But none of those things impressed me as much as that toilet.

It’s the wrong height.

It’s too close to the wall.

If they ever make getting up off a toilet an Olympic event, the athletes will train in our motel bathroom.

I am so glad to get back home to a real toilet!

But enough about that.

Another thing which impressed me greatly on our trip was our visit to an old church for Sunday service.

The congregation was formed in 1858.

During The War enemy soldiers trashed the place.

In the 1880s the building was rebuilt, but fire destroyed it in 1892. The congregation restored the building again.

Stained glass windows crafted by Edward Colegate of New York City grace the sanctuary. Among stained glass aficionados, Golegate’s work ranks up there with that of Louis Comfort Tiffany.

The coolest window is behind the baptismal font on the North Wall. This window (pictured on the left) was dedicated to 36 children who died during one of Fernandina’s several yellow fever epidemics.

And a panel of this particular window commemorates a kid who was mauled to death by a circus bear.

I do not know of any other stained glass window ever dedicated to a bear attack victim.

If I were making a such a window, my picture would show that lovely Bible story found in Second Kings, chapter 2, about the baldheaded prophet, the boys and the two bears. All children should be familiar with this charming tale from the Scripture.

But, apparently Edward Colegate of New York City was a wimp; he did not illustrate that Bible story.

An odd, sad, thing impressed me about the one service we attended: to a packed house of hungry souls, the clergy set up a screen and showed a National Geographic motivational film about recognizing what’s right with the world.

Except for in written portions of the service read from a book and in one song, the name of Jesus was not spoken during the entire service.

Maybe it’s just me being dense and out of tune, but I felt it strange that a Christian church would present an hour long service without so much as mentioning Christ.

It was like going to a fancy Weight Watchers or Rotary Club meeting in a beautiful room.

Anyhow, I thought the bear window was cool.

I hope to write more about our trip to Fernandina over the next few days, but there are two more things I want to mention here quickly:

One: I learned that depression travels well. Mine went with me and returned home thriving as well as ever. Our anniversary vacation trip just changed my depression’s environment. I was just depressed in a new setting. (That low, low toilet seat may have something to do with that feeling).

The other thought that impressed me is that as long as you are struggling with something, that thing has not defeated you.

I’ve written in the past about some of the temptations I struggle with and recently I’ve been inclined to just give up my struggle.

But, whether it be struggling with a marital problem, fat, depression, sin, temptation, or a raging bear — If you are still struggling, you have not lost the war.

Your enemy can not claim victory over you as long as you still struggle.

This particular thought is helping me a lot in my own temptations recently.

I’m down but not utterly defeated.

I can still bite the sucker’s ankle!

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 8:18 AM

Your comments are welcome: 7 comments

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Whatsoever things…

Certain thoughts, certain anticipations, distract me this morning.

If God gives us life and strength, next week Ginny and I plan to celebrate our 38th anniversary.

Mostly we intend to hang at the house, garden, visit some archaeological sites, do our Christmas shopping, and just generally get reacquainted — Along, of course, with marathon bouts of kissing, groping, lust, passion and sleeping in front of tv football games.

Also, my work calls for some decisions that I want to mull over, so I hope to spend some time discussing these with Ginny.

But, mostly we just need some down time without outside input — if that makes sense.

Today I hope to get donkey work done around the house so that stuff is out of the way before our long weekend.

My Webalizer counter software says that about 300 people read this blog yesterday; but this morning, some Blogger glitch prohibits me from posting on my site or commenting on other people’s sites, so it will look to readers as though I’ve dropped out of sight abruptly.

Sorry about that.

I tried.

While I’m out of pocket, please think about browsing in my on-line book catalog at www.bluefishbooks.info to see if there’s any of my work you’d like to buy for someone on your Christmas list or for your own enjoyment.

The catalog lists ten books I’ve written or edited.

My own favorite is my novel Glog. On the surface it’s a simple action adventure about a dinosaur; on another level it’s a tale about how God guides His creatures.

Judging from sales, other people’s favorite books are I’m Confused About Prayer (the title says it all) or Strangers On The Earth, a collective biography of people whose faith got them into trouble.

Or, if you know a Civil War buff, Rebel Yell: The Civil War Diary Of John Thomas Whatley CSA was published for the first time ever last month. It turned out to be a truly beautiful book. It pleases me.

But, I don’t want to think about work right now, I want to get the grass mowed and dishes washed and laundry done…. I have a lot to think about today...





Those are the important things for a dirty old man like me to think about.

As the Bible says:

Whatsoever things are true,
Whatsoever things are honest,
Whatsoever things are just,
Whatsoever things are pure,
Whatsoever things are lovely,
Whatsoever things are of good report,
It there be any virtue,
If there be any praise,
Think on these things.

I plan to resume posting by November 16th.

Y’all behave yourselves while I’m gone.

I’ll behave myself too…. Ha! Ha! Ha! Gloat! Gloat! Gloat! Lots to think about!

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 8:48 AM

Your comments are welcome: 5 comments

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Three Upgrades

1. Photo Upgrade — Ginny and I only snapped a few photos, but if you want to see another nine pages full of photos taken by other people at Donald & Helen’s wedding, click here at http://photos.rdex.net/gallery2/main.php?g2_itemId=448 .

2. Website Upgrade — Yesterday, in the Jacksonville section of my website (www.cowart.info) I scanned in a history of Baldwin, Florida, the most western part of Jacksonville. It was written by Lillian Adams in 1976 as a U.S. Bicentennial project. Mrs. Adams granddaughter gave me permission to scan this copy onto the web.

I think it enormously important to preserve elements of our history because once the tales of our forbearers are lost, they are very difficult for a historian to recover. I wish I’d somehow recorded the tales of my grandparents.

3. Television Upgrade — Now that the election is over, instead of running political commercials, last night one local television news broadcast was devoted to how to treat head lice. I think that’s a step up.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 6:08 AM

Your comments are welcome: 2 comments

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

In Clear, Unambiguous, Exact Language

Today, Ginny and I, along with thousands of others, will vote.

We vote for Governor, for Senator, for Attorney General, etc.

And we get to vote for our choice for who, among candidates I’ve never heard of, will hold offices which I did not know existed.

Not only that, but we also vote on something requiring clear and unambiguous language to be used on future ballots

— At least I think that’s what we’re voting about.

I’m not sure because the ballot which ask me to vote yes or no says:

Referendum For Jacksonville Charter Amendment Regarding The Form Of Referendum Ballots And Financial Impact Disclosure shall section 1805 of the City Charter be amended to allow for a referendum ballot to include only a clear and unambiguous summary of a proposed charter amendment and its financial impact estimate, consistent with state law, when a copy of the complete and exact language of the proposed amendment is posted at each voting location and properly advertised, instead of the current requirement for the complete and exact language of the proposed amendment? Part A. Charter Laws Charter Of The City Of Jacksonville, Florida, Article 18. Miscellaneous Provisions Section 1805. Method of amendment of charter. Subject to the provisions of section 3.01(e) and section 7.103, ….

The ballot continues to describe whatever it is that it is presenting to me, in clear and unambiguous language, for another five column inches before giving me two boxes where I can check either yes or no.

I’m sure you can guess how I will vote about this important matter.

Somehow on Voting Day I take comfort in the words of King Solomon when he said, “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord”.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 5:34 AM

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Donald & Helen Wed!!!

Ever see horny squirrels chase eachother in circles around the trunk of a tree oblivious to all else in the universe?

Well then, you have a good idea of how our son’s wedding came off Saturday.

You can see five pages of wedding photos in my Photo Gallery on the blog sidebar or click HERE.

First off, on Friday morning I took Donald out to brunch to give him “The Talk” filled with fatherly advise about women.

But before I could get into it, he dropped a bombshell.

He asked me to conduct the wedding — which was less than 20 hours away.

I’m not a preacher. I have never conducted a wedding before in my life.

An old saying goes, “A Christian must be ready to preach, pray or die at a moment’s notice”.

It doesn’t say anything about performing weddings!

Besides that , Helen had already asked her friend Winkie, an authorized Notary, to conduct the ceremony.

Friday afternoon I called Winkie who graciously allowed me to take part. Since there was to be no rehearsal, we planned our roles over the phone. I was to make the introductory remarks and deliver a brief homily — telling everything anybody needs to know about a happy marriage in less than six minutes.

No problem.

(I’ll tack my speech on to the end of this blog posting).

Going to afterburners, I stayed up all night trying to think of anything intelligent to say. The advantage to giving this kind of speech is that I know no one at all will be paying the slightest bit of attention because their feet hurt from standing during the wedding and they are focused on the Bride and Groom, and they’re all anxious to get this over with and get to the champagne brunch reception.

As I tried to think, the phone went wild. Callers asking about music arrangements. Callers asking directions. A caller concerned about a possible brain tumor. Callers explaining why they could not get to the wedding. Callers asking about decorations. Callers wanting to know what to bring.

No problem — After all Donald and Helen had given us three full days to prepare for their wedding.

And the two squirrels circled the tree oblivious to all else..

The ceremony proved lovely. The girls commandeered a pavilion in a local park without permission. Wellwishers gathered. The music sounded beautiful. Winkie made it all legal. Champagne flowed. Everything all went off without a hitch.

Nervous as could be about making a fool of myself, I gave my pep talk.

Afterwards, I felt so ashamed, shabby and shy that I could hardly stand to be in the reception. I spent that time hiding out in the parking lot too ashamed to be around people. But I doubt if anyone noticed.

The two stars of the show rejoiced with their Dearly Beloved family and friends.

Ginny drove me home and set me down in front of a football game where I slept for ten hours.

And the squirrels circle the tree.

Oh, if anyone is interested, here’s a copy of the talk I gave:

My Six-Minute Wedding Talk
Donald & Helen:

Bride, what is his name?

(Helen answered, “Donald”).

There’s something wrong here. According to the card his name is Harry. You mean his name is not Harry?

Groom, What is her name?

(Donald answered, “Helen”).

There’s something really wrong because the card says her name is Hermione Granger.

If you are not Harry Potter, and if you are not Hermione Granger… Then do you two realize what this means?

It means that you are marrying a person who can NOT read your mind!

But that’s OK. Because no one ever marries a mind reader.

That means that if you want her to know what’s on your mind, you have to talk, to use real words.

If you want him to know what’s on your heart, you have to speak, to talk out loud!

We can not expect our partner to read our minds.


That just does not happen in the real world.

“But we’re in love. She should anticipate my every whim” he says.

“We are so close that he should know what I want without me saying a word,” she says.


Now, we all have certain expectations when we marry.

A man who marries expects Anita Elkberg in the bedroom. (She was Miss Sweden in 1950, my adolescent dream girl). He expects to be married to Dr. Joyce Brothers when he wants to talk. And he expects to find Betty Crocker in the kitchen.

A girl expects to find Fabio in her bedroom. When she wants to talk, she expects to be married to Dr. Phil. She expects Ty Pennington from Extreme Home Makeover to do repairs around the house. —

And she expects her husband to say out of the kitchen altogether.

And, every one of us expects the person we marry to be able to read our minds.

That just does not happen.

We marry real people and live in a real world.

The only way your partner can know what is on your mind and in your heart is to talk, to tell the other one. In words. Out loud.

The only way you can know what is in your partner’s mind is to ask!

The only way to answer when your partner does ask what you are thinking is to answer HONESTLY!

The road toward Hell is lined bumper to bumper with couples who ask, “What’s wrong with you!” and who answer, “Nothing”

Speak your mind.

Ask what’s in your partner’s mind.

Answer honestly.

Do you know why we hate to do this?


Our pride makes us want the other person to make the first move.


Always make the first move. Always.

You can have a marriage… or you can have your pride… but that’s all you’ll have.

You’ve heard that marriage is a picture of Christ’s relationship to His people.

God does not expect us to be mind readers.

We are to honestly tell Him what’s on our mind — That’s called prayer.

And we are not left to guess what’s in God’s mind; He speaks to us through the Bible. He reveals what He thinks in His Word. We can read the Bible to know the mind of God in everything that we need to know.

What does the Scripture say?

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands as unto the Lord…

“Husbands, love your wives even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it…

“So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife, loveth himself…

“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

“This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

“Nevertheless, let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.” — Ephesians 6:22-33

You are marring a real person, not a fantasy character.

Helen, he is not Harry Potter. He can not read your mind.

Donald, wonderful as she is, Helen is not Hermione Granger. She can not read your mind.

Therefore, Say what’s in your mind. Ask what’s in her mind. And, when you are asked, answer honestly.

Let us Pray:

Dearest Father, help each one of us here to be real. To live in a real world. To see real people. To find real peace. To solve real problems. … and to serve the real and living Son of God, Jesus Christ, who died for our real sins and rose again from a real tomb… to real and everlasting life. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 7:30 AM

Your comments are welcome: 8 comments

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Not For The Squeamish —A Long, Horrible, Gruesome, Sometimes Profane, Post About Thoughts On Religious Tolerance As It Relates To My Prostate Exam

I have heard outsiders say that we Christians are intolerant when it comes to other religions. They say that we refuse to see good in the faiths held by others. They say we are narrow-minded. They say we are bigoted. They say we are exclusive.

They have a point.

Being a Christian is certainly nothing to brag about.

In fact when I say “I’m saved”, by definition that means I am in such sorry shape that it took an act of God Almighty to rescue me!

Picture a guy who blunders into a septic tank and is drowning in filth and crap. He frails about as he goes under for the third time and sinks into the sludge at the bottom.

He’s a goner.

Along comes a Savior who runs the edge, strips off His clothes, jumps into the septic tank, dives under the liquid, gropes around in the sediment, grabs the guy by the collar, drags him to the surface, pulls him to dry ground, pounds him on the back till he pukes up the crap he swallowed, presses His lips to the guy’s mouth and blows His own breath into the man giving him life.

What does the savee have to brag about?

The only Hero on the scene is the Savior.

A guy whose just been rescued from drowning in a septic tank can look down on no one.

All the saved one can do is be embarrassed about his own plight, and grateful to the Savior.

But what about the unsaved? People believing in other religions? Is the Christian better than them?

The Bible says that there is only one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.

That doesn’t leave much wiggle room.

I thought about this stuff a lot as I prepared for a prostate exam yesterday.

Why would a prostate exam set me to thinking about religious toleration?

The Jacksonville phone book contains 34 pages of fine print listing physicians; the one assigned to me is a Mohammedan.

FYI: when a physician talks about a digital exam, he does not refer to pale green numbers flashing on a computer readout. When he says digital, he means digital!

And my doctor is powerful enough to squeeze a football with one hand — and pop it!

I have reason to know that.

And the digital exam is just the first step. Next, he will insert a stainless steel tube shaped like a giant soda straw (but about as big around as a truck tire) into my penis. He feeds a fiber optic light through this tube to see what he calls “abnormal tissue”.

Then he runs a delicate precision surgical instrument through the tube to cut away said tissue. You can see a picture of this delicate precision surgical instrument in any hardware store catalogue under the listing for “Chain Saws”.

I think I’ve mentioned in this blog before that I have an strong aversion to being touched. Such a strong aversion that a casual touch in a crowded elevator creates a panic attack that leaves me quivering. So strong that for the past 40 years I have cut my own hair with a razor/comb thingy rather than let a barber touch me.

I would not trust St. Paul with a golden halo to touch my One & Only in the ways this doctor needs to. I cringe and feel nauseated at the mere thought of anyone touching me.

I’m not exactly a people person.

So, when I learned that a Mohammedan would do all this stuff to me, I had second thoughts. I even thought about requesting a change to a Christian doctor; but I didn’t.

For some strange reason I associate Mohammedans with crashing planes, car bombs, exploding shoes.

Aren’t they all like that?

Of course not!

Just because a person is not a Christian, does not mean that he is not a skilled, honorable, noble person.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not talking about some sort of universalism here.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father except by me”.

Unless Jesus was a liar, that does not leave us one bit of wiggle room.

It’s Jesus or nothing.

I picture the situation like this: People trapped on the roof of a burning skyscraper. Another skyscraper towers up just 40 feet away; if the trapped folks can jump from one roof to the other they will be safe.

A man gets a running start. He leaps off the parapet. He sails though the air windmilling his arms. His mighty jump takes him 39 feet and ten inches! What a leap! His leap is to be applauded. His leap is to be admired. His leap qualifies him for an Olympic record.

That’s the way I picture a faithful adherent to another religion.

I give him my applause, respect and admiration.

Only one thing wrong.

The Bible says we have all sinned and fall short of the glory God has for us.

We make mighty leaps.

But fall short.

Christ stretches out His nail-scarred hand to us, but if we ignore Him, our leap falls short.

Are the Christians better than the non-Christians still on the burning roof?

Not a bit.

Even the best leapers among us fall short and are as brands saved from the burning.

We can take no credit.

We still smell of smoke. We still smell of the mire from that septic tank.

The only Hero is the Rescuer.

He alone is worthy.

Now, my Mohammedan doctor handles dozens of these prostate things each week.

But, this is my One & Only.

Yes, the doctor’s ministry to me may result in the restoration of my vim, vigor, and vitality. After he gets through with me, I may be able to knock the bark off a tree at five paces….

Or, a slip of the chainsaw, a zig when he should have zagged, may leave me utterly impotent and dribbling down my left leg and wearing diapers for the rest of my life.

(The alternative is to let this abnormal tissue inside me grow till I fill with piss, my kidneys back up, my teeth float, and I die.)

OK, John, you say you trust God for your eternal salvation, can you trust His chosen instrument with your precious One & Only?

Chosen instrument?

Yes, and I’m talking about the doctor, not the chainsaw.

As a Christian I believe that God is the First Cause of all effects. I believe that there are no second causes but that everything comes to us via the hand of the Father.

I did not choose this prostate trouble for myself.

I did not choose which doctor the other two doctors recommended to handle me.

I believe that God Himself, for reasons of His own, placed me in the hands of this Mohammedan. I believe that God means me no permanent harm — yes, even the anxiety, even the chainsaw, even the suffering, even the indignity of diapers, even a painful death — none of those details are permanent. The troubles of this life are fleeting things in the light of eternity.

I seriously doubt that any guys in Heaven will sit around bitching about having to have had prostate surgery on earth.

It just won’t matter to them then.

Nevertheless, I’m feeling a different interpretation of the Bible verse that says, “Father, into thy hands I commit my One & Only”.

Or something like that.

So, because I trust in God’s will, and my Mohammedan doctor (those folks also believe in submitting to the will of God), I’m in for an interesting time over the next few months.

I’m sure the doctor would describe the medical procedures ahead a little differently from the way I do. And I do not intend to blog about health stuff any more; readers have their own health stories. I thought long and hard about whether or not to go into this stuff today. That’s why I’m so late getting this posted today. (And I doubt if I’ll post tomorrow because of getting ready for The Wedding).

Anyhow, until I get more information, I’ll let the doctor do whatever he needs to — But you can bet that I’m still going to be cutting my own hair!

P.S: Did you know that the words testify and testimony that we Christians bandy about are related to the word testicles? In the good old days, the Romans would put a suspected Christian’s balls on the chopping block and ask him if he still confessed that Jesus Is Lord.

Just thought you’d want to know.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 1:05 PM

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

And On The Third Day...

Yesterday afternoon Donald and Helen came over for lunch to announce that they are getting married… Next Saturday!

Actually, they wanted to get married today —they’d just come from City Hall after buying their license — but they’d found that state law requires that no matter how horny you are, you have to wait three days after getting a license to get married… or to buy a gun.

So Saturday is the soonest they can have the ceremony.

No problem.

That gives us three whole days to scrounge up a minister, prepare food for the reception, arrange for music, get flowers — and buy them a wedding present.

That last thing presents Ginny and me with a problem.

We’re broke.

This is Skimp Week, the week between one payday and the next. Car and homeowner’s insurance came out of our last paycheck. So we are a bit shorter of cash than usual.

In fact, if I could afford a crayon, I’d get a scrap of cardboard and write Will Work For Food on it.

However, God does provide!

The Spirit reminded me of what’s stored away in our back closet.

So, as we sat around the table discussing wedding arrangements, I casually asked Helen, “Say, were you the one who gave us that glass punchbowl for Christmas? The one with the little dangly cups to hang on the rim? I can’t remember who gave us that thing.”

“No,” she said, “I didn’t give you anything like that”.

“Good,” I said. “Forget I asked.... But, we’ve got your wedding present covered”.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 6:26 AM

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